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How To Spend 4 Days In Panama

There’s a lot to do in Panama so having only 4 days makes it difficult to choose.   On a whim, I choose to fly from Costa Rica to Panama.  My main intent was to see the Panama Canal and anything else would surely be a bonus.

—–Here’s how I spent my 4 days in Panama—–

Arriving at Tocumen Airport

Arriving in Tocumen Airport Panama seem to be a breeze.  I flew my first time with Copa Airlines which pretty much takes up most of the airport.  Best part was you could take 2 checked bags and they had a USB port at your seat to charge your electronics.  I was pleasantly surprised it didn’t take long to going through immigration.

Tocumen airport Panama

Our flight attendant paged overhead which carousel our bags would be located at before we left the plane.  The wait time for our luggage to come off the plane was very short.  If you are traveling with lots of luggage you can rent a cart.  Price was $3 USD.  This is the first time I have been at an airport where they charged to use carts.

baggage area Panama airport

Where to Stay

I felt a little relaxation was in order and to be truthful spoiling myself was on the agenda.  I stayed at the Dreams Delight Playa Bonita Resort for 2 wonderful days.  My room was on the 4th floor room 434 to be exact.  As I am an AM Resorts Master Agent this allowed me to apply a discount on my stay here at Dreams providing me an opportunity to visit Panama for the first time.

I arrived early at 10am so most hotels will charge a fee for early entrance privileges.  $30 USD which allows you access to restaurants, bars, pools, wifi, and the grounds.  This was the only drawback to my stay.  It was either pay the fee or sit in the lobby like a lump and do nothing.  I can always work and rely heavily on wifi for my business, so it was a no-brainer.  I ended up spending a few hours working from one of the comfy couches near the bar.

My room had an ocean view with a king size bed, couch, and desk to work.  The room was super comfy and clean.  I’m not a big fan of air conditioning so that’s the first thing I turned off.  I quickly opened the patio doors to let in the warm air from the ocean.  This feels more like vacation to me.  I love listening to the sounds of the ocean.  On the patio was a set of 2 chairs and small drink table.  If you love having your morning coffee overlooking the ocean this was the perfect spot to lounge.

Where to eat

Each floor had elevators making it easy to get to the main area of restaurants and bars.  All the restaurants served nice meals and always had pleasant staff members to serve me.  At the Bordeaux pictured below I got to dine in style.  I loved the feel of the room quaint & romantic with no kids.

I didn’t have a chance to try the Seafood restaurant located near the pool as we had quite the downpour that evening.  The Market Café served up buffet style International dishes.

Bordeaux restaurant

  Bordeaux Adults Only French Cuisine

The pool

The main pool had a swim up bar with lounge chairs to relax.  If the sun was too much there were shaded cabana areas close by.  As it’s low season there were always places to lounge.  The grounds were well kept by the gardeners on a daily basis.  The walkways were made of cement and nicely lite in the evening.  If you had a wheelchair or walker it would be easy to get from the main hotel lobby to the pool.

Dreams Delight pool

Hyatt Downtown

As I said goodbye to the staff my next experience would be totally different.   City life in downtown Panama.  Was I in for a shock.  Hyatt downtown here I was close to subways, buses, stores, and shopping.

room at the Hyatt downtown Panama

My room on the 6th floor overlooked buildings below so not the best view.  The room had everything I needed, a king bed, section sofa to relax, mini frig, tv, and a nice clean bathroom.  I even broke out the iron & ironing board.

The Hyatt didn’t really have a separate restaurant, but downstairs was included a full breakfast.  This was great to start the day.    The rooftop had a small pool, so I had to take a quick dip the first day I arrived.

Staff were always friendly and helpful to direct me to the subway; the pizza was tasty with my overall stay being positive.  I’m not a fan of cities and having to navigate between cars to cross the road was a challenge.

Down the street and around the corner from the Hyatt was a Casino and lots of shops all the street.  Going for a walk on the main street I found some local restaurants, pharmacies, and lots of stops for subways.

Things to do

Well, the Panama Canal remains the main place to see you’d be surprised that there is part of the old city to tour, (this is best to see during the daylight hours), the rainforest (Gamboa), and of course, if you love volcanoes as I do Volcan Baru is the highest at 11, 400 ft.  This volcano is only about 35km from the Costa Rica border.

While the city tour, rainforest, and volcano will have to wait til I return for the next visit I look forward to coming back soon.

casco viejo panama

Casco Viejo

Visiting the old historic district, you’ll want to give yourself at least 2 hours for walking & sightseeing of the Spanish colonial churches, shops, more if you plan on dining in this area.

Public transit

Currently Panama City has 1-line underground for a subway with a 2nd line in the works.  The cost for a card is $2 USD which you can load up with money at a machine in the subway.  I took a ride from Iglesia Carmen all the way to Albrook Mall which cost only 35 cents one way.  Pretty cheap if you ask me!

Once you arrive at the station take the walkway across the road to the Albrook Mall.  From here you go down one level to hire a taxi.  If you plan on taking a taxi be prepared to speak Spanish.  Most drivers do not speak English or know very little.  They also don’t have meters so you need to agree on a price before getting in.

One way from Albrook Mall to Miraflores cost $10 USD.  Granted it was probably a little pricey because they see tourists coming so the price is usually higher.  Taxi drivers are also not regulated by the government and known to be bad drivers.  Just saying!

If you are adventurous and have all day you could try a local bus.  As I was only spending 4 days in Panama I hired a private shuttle company to provide airport transportation as well as between hotels.  The service I received was top notch.  My driver was always on time, in fact usually early, very courteous, and filled with knowledge.  I’m sure he never met anyone who asked so many weird questions a tourist would not ask.  I you are interested in private shuttle service let me know I would be happy to recommend them.

Panama subway
Panama Subway Map

Miraflores Locks at Panama Canal

miraflores locks panama

The building at Miraflores was the perfect spot to see the boats travel through the canal.  Most days 40 boats will pass through here.  I just saw the tail end of a smaller boat but if you time it correctly you can see from the upper decks of the building.  The cost for 1 adult ticket was $15 USD.

Inside the building, they have a museum area that has models and commentary to learn about the history of the canal.  I tried the restaurant which served a buffet lunch.  The price was a little steep at $35 USD per person.  The food was good, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend paying the high price.  There was also a coffee shop on the main level.  Here again for a coffee and square was about the price you’d pay in Canada at Starbucks.

If you want to fall into the tourist trap and purchase pictures of you overlooking the canal it is available.  An alternative is to ask a stranger to take your photo.  Since I’m a solo traveler I have no problem spotting someone who looks friendly to take a photo.  In return, I do the same for them.

There is still so much to see & do in Panama,  I feel like I only touched the surface.  On my next trip I will be visiting Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean side. In this area it’s best to travel in September or October for good weather conditions.

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About the Author:

Laurie Johnson is travel writer, agent, and founder of Pura Vida Vacations. She finds her inspirations from travelling of the beaten path, meeting the locals, and sharing her travel stories, reviews, and tips with her readers.

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